Melinda Lopez is a pet lover, outdoors enthusiast, and emergency veterinarian who loves exploring the Sea to Sky Corridor. Based in Whistler, it was a combination of these interests, along with her increasing concern about the climate emergency, that led her to develop a solutions-oriented business idea in 2017: Little Pine, a sustainable and ethical pet apparel and supply company.
“Many animal lovers face a moral dilemma when they realize that the footprint of the products they buy for their pets can cause further harm to the planet and to other animals,” Lopez shares. “Little Pine repurposes materials such as expired climbing rope for creating leashes and outdated ski instructor uniforms for pet clothing, giving new life to products that would otherwise end up in the landfill.”
Little Pine’s commitment to making a positive social impact is also evident by how they create their products. Their supplier partnerships with talented artisans belonging to socially disadvantaged groups supports those facing disability, immigrants, incarcerated women, and more, resulting in a beautiful, handmade product designed for friendship and adventure that pet owners can buy, all while supporting a great cause!
A fateful connection
By 2020, Little Pine had launched their website and entered the ecommerce marketplace. While this was exciting for Lopez, she reflects that she lacked a clear market entry strategy. “We believed that further expansion into the US ecommerce market presented one of the greatest opportunities for the growth of our brand,” explains Lopez. “But it also presented challenges to manufacturing, supply and fulfillment, and required a strategic approach to marketing.”
Soon after, Export Advisor Oriana Brueggemann contacted Lopez through Little Pine’s website contact form to indicate that the business would be a good fit for Export Navigator. From there, things picked up momentum. “Oriana has been amazing,” Lopez boasts. “She opened my eyes.”
You get out what you put in
In only six months, with Oriana’s guidance, Little Pine increased their marketing training through Alacrity Academy, completed Canada’s Trade Accelerator Program, improved their business and marketing plans, and applied for funding and small business contests. Lopez’s dedication to her business development is evident to those outside Export Navigator, too. “We just found out we were one of the winners of the #MySmallBusiness TikTok Canada Contest!” exclaims Lopez.
Little Pine’s levelled up marketing and ecommerce strategy has translated directly to growth. “With ecommerce, we’ve seen 37% of lifetime sales attributed to the website in the past year of business,” Lopez notes. She’s also hired a brand ambassador and business-to-business rep.
More than an advisor
Lopez knows that the guidance, advice, coaching and connections made through Export Navigator will only grow in value for Little Pine. “I am so grateful that I was connected with this program,” she shares. Armed with a clearer understanding of her market entry strategy, budget, goals, and risks associated with exporting, she sees an exciting future ahead. “We feel so much more supported, confident and prepared to expand into new markets,” Lopez affirms.
“Joining Export Navigator was the single best thing that has happened to our business.”